This is a good piece laying out the concept that our battle with jihadism is a war with an idea rather than an organization; it's a read-the-whole-thinger that doesn't lend itself to a paste-and-reply blog post.
There are organized training bases that can be targeted by the Drone Arranger, but that's not going to stop free-lancers from weaponizing everyday items, like knives and trucks. It doesn't take any coursework in ninja-craft to mow down pedestrians on a crowded street or to knife a elderly priest to death.
For instance, ISIS has a large swath of territory that it controls in Syria and Iraq. Kicking them out of that nest will make things easier for the locals there, but it might not make much of a dent in preventing attacks like Orlando or Nice or yesterday's Mass murder. Those folks were drawn to the idea of striking a blow against their infidel neighbors and didn't need to be taught how to be jihadis, although one of yesterday's butchers tried and failed (twice) to join up with ISIS and was very much on police radar.
ISIS didn't invent lone-wolf attacks, it merely popularized them. They're the jihadist flavor of the moment with a potency that seems to strike a chord more than al Qaeda does.
I addressed that issue two years ago on the issue of when enemy combatants get to be released from Gitmo, playing off the concept of a meme or contagious idea-
The guy who was making the suit was a Kuwaiti caught in Tora Bora, not a Pashtun Talib, so the government could make a case that he was an al Qaida figher and not a Talib. The night is still young in our clash with Osama's kids.
However, that long night could go on decades longer. al Qaida's love child ISIS is showing some nasty legs, as are a number of offshoots in Africa. Some have clear roots with al Qaeda, while others like Boko Haram have just an anti-Western flavored Sunni Islam in common.
If our Kuwaiti is deemed to be a prisoner of that memetic war, he could be a guest at Club Gitmo for quite a while, serving a de-facto life sentence for fighting for the wrong force.
Even further back in 2004, I ruffled some feathers in wondering if the "war on terror" was winnable-
"Mark, isn't it just a warped version of Islam that's the problem?" Yes, but there's enough in the Koran proper to get people to warp themselves into jihad mode. Even if people preach a moderate Islam that focuses on the "greater jihad" (jihad means struggle, but takes on the connotation of holy war in modern use) against personal sin, there will be a few yahoos that will want a more literal interpretation.
I recall a story from Vineyard founder John Wimber, who was reading the Bible as a clueless new believer and was expecting the modern church to be doing the stuff that was happening in Acts. When he wandered into a mainline church seeking a church home, he asked if they had the kind of miracles happening that the early church had. When they told him no, he said something to the effect of "Well, I'm going to go someplace where it is."
Even if we root out all the radical madrassas and all the jihad-preaching mosques, you're still going to find Islamic Wimbers who will want to have a full-Koran mosque as much as modern Pentecostals and charismatics will be seeking a "full-Gospel" church. For many, such a full-Koran mosque will include a literal war against the infidels.
Thus, it's unlikely we'll ever fully wipe out Islamic terrorists short of wiping out Islam. Such a dream is not part of a classic-liberal dream. It might be part of a secular dream, of wiping out any religion that doesn't serve a secular state. The French might dream that and the Germans might dream that, but Americans dare not dream that, for our system just doesn't allow the outlawing of an entire religion.
Can we make life harder for the jihadis? Yes. Can we limit their scope and limit the weapons at their disposal? You bet. Can we improve their lives and make a holy war less attractive? Yes. Can we totally wipe them off the face of the earth? Not until Jesus returns in person; it's above our pay grade.
Sadly, that still holds a dozen years on. Jihadism is a meme that pops out of Islam on its own; it can be cheered on, but it seems to flow on its own given the belligerent nature of early Islam; Muhammad lived out the life of a conquistador in the flesh, which gives a violent sheen to Islamic thought.
A story from the Philippines earlier this week has been in my craw; newly-elected tough-guy President Duterte has declared a ceasefire with communist rebels. This passage stuck with me-
Addressing the New People's Army guerrillas, Duterte said: "Let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere and it is getting bloodier by the day."
"Let me make this appeal to you," he said. "If we cannot as yet love one another, then in God's name, let us not hate each other too much."
Communists might not respond to Christian rhetoric and jihadis think that you can't hate the infidel too much, but that might be the trick, to instill a respect for one's fellow man. That would go a long way to containing jihadist sympathies, but violent hatreds are as old as the hills and are unlikely to go away.